Barcelona’s Lionel Messi broke free from Arsenal’s shackles to score two late goals and put the Champions League holders on the brink of the quarter-finals with a clinical 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday.

The irrepressible Argentine, along with strike partners Luis Suárez and Neymar, had been subdued for most of the last 16, first-leg tie but came alive later on, clinically finishing off a lightning counter-attack and then dispatching a penalty.

“They are 95% through to the quarter-finals certainly," Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, whose side had defended solidly for 71 minutes before it crumbled, told reporters. “It’s a shame we didn’t get any satisfaction because we put everything into it."

Luis Enrique’s Barca side extended their unbeaten run to 33 matches and, barring something extraordinary in the return at the Nou Camp next month, will take their place in the last eight for the ninth season in a row. “I liked everything we did tonight," the Spaniard told reporters.

Messi has proved a thorn in Arsenal’s side on the last two occasions the teams have met in the Champions League. In 2010, he scored four times in the last 16-second leg to send Barca through and a year later he struck twice in a 3-1 win in Spain after Arsenal’s first-leg win.

Fearful trio

Messi, Suarez and Neymar had scored 91 goals in all competitions this season heading into Tuesday’s game but none of the feared threesome managed an effort on target in the first half as Arsenal’s fans cranked up the decibel levels.

Arsenal were patient and should have gone ahead midway through the first half when Héctor Bellerín’s scuffed shot fell for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain but he scooped his effort straight into the arms of keeper Marc-André ter Stegen.

The Catalans began to move through the gears though and, either side of half-time, wasted two glorious chances.

Starved of the ball for long periods, Arsenal still posed a threat and Ter Stegen did well to keep out Olivier Giroud’s close-range header from a Mesut Özil cross.

Arsenal grew in belief but it cost them dear as they committed players forward and got stung on the break. With 19 minutes left, they lost the ball near Barca’s goal and Suarez and Neymar combined in devastating fashion, the Brazilian unselfishly picking out Messi, who steadied himself before beating Cech for the first time in his career.

Suarez then hit the post when he should have scored before Messi scored again, this time with a calmly struck penalty after substitute Mathieu Flamini had tripped him.

Thrilling draw

Bayern Munich remain confident of advancing to the Champions League quarter-finals despite blowing a two-goal lead in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Juventus in the first leg of their Round of 16 encounter on Tuesday.

The 2013 champions were well worth the 2-0 lead they had opened up after a dominant hour in Turin before the Italians hit back with two goals in the final 27 minutes to restore parity ahead of the return leg in Munich on 16 March.

“We should not make the mistake and wrangle too much with this result even if we were leading by two goals during the game," Bayern chief executive officer Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said at a post-match dinner early on Wednesday.

“This is a very, very good result which keeps the door to the quarter-final wide open," he said after Bayern failed to make it three straight wins against Juve in Turin.

Juve, last season’s beaten finalists, have lost just twice in their past 46 home games in Europe, both times against the Bavarians, who again looked likely winners for much of the match.

Despite a makeshift backline due to a string of injuries to central defenders, coach Pep Guardiola’s team took charge from the start, terrorizing the Italians with constant attacks down the flanks.

Wide men Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben outmanoeuvred their markers time and again as the Germans missed a hatful of opportunities to further drive home their superiority in a commanding first hour.

They were left frustrated in the end, however, knowing they had passed up on a victory that would almost certainly have been enough to secure a place in the last eight.

“We are going back with a queasy feeling because we thought we would leave here with a win," said keeper Manuel Neuer, who needed to be at his vigilant best to preserve a draw as Juventus pushed for an unlikely winner late in the game. “We were playing well but suddenly it became hectic and the atmosphere in the stadium became more intense."

Bayern are expected to be stronger in the second leg with winger Franck Ribéry and central defender Medhi Benatia gaining valuable playing time as late substitutes as both marked their return from injury. Reuters

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